Monday, July 18, 2011

In Rotation #8

Dang, it's been a while since I've done one of these In Rotation things. And since, so much incredible stuff has found its way to me one way or another so I'm gonna spew it all out at you.
I caught Chicago free jazz crew Tiger Hatchery at Seattle's best show so far this year (they shared the bill with an amazingly free and melodic set by Wally Shoup and Don Berman (dude's got one of the coolest drumming styles I've ever seen,) Jason E. Anderson (Brother Raven) did live analog modular processing of saxophonist Wilson Shook and Panabrite closed the night with deep synth vibes.) The Hatchery blew the roof the place, still one of the most intense, relentlessly energetic jazz ensembles I've ever encountered. Dudes were all super nice too, I complimented Andrew Michael Young on his solo Catholic Tape and I was pleasantly met with news of a second tape to be released in the future. Ben Billington also gave me his recent tape as Quicksails on Deception Island, another sweet entry in his unique percussion-inspired solo synthery. While I was there I obviously clutched a bounty of proper Tiger Hatchery stuff too: an insanely good one-sided LP on Pizza Night, a cassette on Baked Tapes, the best bang for the buck, with a live set on each side, and a split 7inch split with rock band Lechuguillas (who they modestly stated delivered the better side; modesty is great and all but please allow me to disagree, Tiger Hatchery.) Killer band, if you missed their tour, well, that was dumb.
More killer Chicago shit (is there something in the beer over there?) Running's self-titled 45rpm LP on Permanent. A wailin' and wall-shakin' Chicago noise rock record. Sloshed, uptempo Jesus Lizard-on-amphetamines gnarlyisms. Some of the cuts barely qualify as songs and others drop the catchiest riffs and most inept drum solos in ten counties, all the while feedback bleeds all over the record even between its 13 tracks. There is no silence on this record! Awesome. Check this band out already!
Speaking of silence, I gotta talk about this new Rale LP on Isounderscore. First of all, fuck. Have you seen this record? Like for real seen it in person? If you haven't, you won't be able to begin to understand what I'm talking about. Seeing a picture of the jacket online will give you an idea of what it looks like but make no mistake, the record in person is simply gorgeous. It's so simple, so elegant and just perfect. Kudos to Brandon Nickels's design work. As far as the sounds go they are quite stately as well. Rale aka Bill Hutson has created quite a fantastic drone record; one that does not lull (or dull) you into submission with constancy or repetition but it instead breathes. Hutson constructs it meticulously to move through stretches of sculpted sounds and pure silence seamlessly. I just got this and can tell it's a good one. I am looking forward diving in many more times.
"Meticulous construction" and Sightings are two terms that I've never really thought about together until now. "Now" being since I got Future Accidents the latest LP by Sightings, released by Our Mouth. This is the best Sightings record I have heard. It's got all the good things about Sightings but revamped into a more studied, cerebral brand of noise rock. The side-length track "Public Remains" on the B-side (which features help from Pat Murano) could pass for (or in fact is rather) an excellent example of modern abstract composition. It's dense and complex stuff but immediately listenable. Really outstanding work. Shahin Motia and Kid Millions engineered this record which reminds me when are Ex Models gonna drop another record?
Moreso than any other label this year, Weird Forest has been blowing me away. Of course part of that is me digging through their back catalog as well but still, props. One of the smartest moves made by Davy Bui when he became the new CEO last year was instituting tapes into the Weird Forest pantheon. Matt Kretzmann (Garrincha & the Stolen Elk) dropped a tape earlier in the year which is a great cassette-concrete thing he had done like a decade ago or something, glad it finally saw the light of day! I can hear traces of its style in Garrincha, but it's definitely a path of its own worth traveling down. And damn man, Bui went 3 for 3 with the new tapes he dropped recently. Colour Buk delivers a half hour of intermingling avant-junk skronk rock with super-weird and really awesome songs. The Preterite dropped a hearty two full hours of magical piano/tape manipulation pieces. It's always nice to have another reason to add a double cassette to the collection. The crown jewel of the three for me is Kevin Corcoran's Haptic Music, an absolutely stunning tape of solo percussion. It's the kind of thing that not everyone will be down with but they fuckin' should be. Corcoran's approach to his instruments (or "objects" may be more apt) is patient, tender (sometimes) and fascinatingly detailed. His subtle manipulations make for extremely engaging aural gestures in the headphones. It's music for people who love to listen. One track is actually pretty too, as Corcoran pulls drones out his drums. Along with the tapes, Weird Forest dropped a to-the-letter reissue of Symphony for a Genocide by Maurizio Bianchi (billed as M.B.) which was gone in a flash (all 520 copies!) I had never actually heard any M.B. stuff which is why I picked it up. Apparently Bianchi is a pretty conceptual guy stating "The moral of this work: The past punishment is the inevitable blindness of the present" and, well, whatever. I'm not exactly seeing what the gnarled tones and relentless beats contained on the record have to do with that. Good thing I only really care about gnarled tones and relentless beats. This thing seems like it could have been made today and it's 30 years old. Modern experimental music you are really behind the times. Also, Noveller released a new album of her trademarked tangled guitar strings called Glacial Glow. Weird Forest collected a bunch of Terrors cassette tracks, forming a new CD/LP of barely-fi, heavy-on-the-lethargy tunes called Qagan Lord. A few keepers on the record for sure. Perhaps the most interesting of the new full lengths is Garrincha and the Stolen Elk's Void. In some ways it has a touch of a post-rock feel. Not the shitty neo-prog stuff but the classics like early Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Of course, where there was like 20 people on a Godspeed record you got two here; though the two, the aforementioned Bui and Kretzmann, are products of the current multi-tasking, 17-instruments-to-every-person scene. Long story short the record is still a bit of an enigma to me as it is, and when you think about it in context with their previous releases, well, that makes it all the more enigmatic.
No strangers to blowing me away, Stunned dropped their second to last batch of tapes and well the batch probably couldn't be any more flawless. A.M. Shiner drops a weirdly musical tape (is that an actual instrument, and not a stalled transmission, that I hear?) Super Minerals go straight off the deep end with Contacteer and continue their hot streak of one-upping the release that came before. Not sure if you caught that, but basically each successive Minerals release has been better than the last, at least for a while now anyway, not many bands you can say that about. M. Geddes Gengras and Jeremy Kelly play analog synth-sparring partners as Voder Deth Squad to masterful, mind-blowing effect. Think Gengras's other Stunned tapes and then imagine him dueling with some kind of alternate reality doppelganger. Santa Cruz, CA's Ugly Husbands (which I haven't heard since their very nice debut cassette) delivers an abstract spectacle of lo-fi bedroom songwriting while on the flipside resides Gul Bara, a Warm Climate side project--need I say more to entice you? A duo of Seth Kasselman and Caitlin C. Mitchell, Gul Bara is maybe a little like an expansion of those interludes between "songs" on the Warm Climate records, but where as those interludes were strategically calculated, each piece here is left looser to thrive on its own accord.
The Rise of Elklink delivered by, you guessed it, Elklink is a LP reissue on KYE of a cassette released way back in 1998 (yes, "My Heart Will Go On" was stilling ruling the airwaves when this initially came out.) Graham Lambkin, thank you for reissuing this. This record is way too fucking nutty to get lost in the past. The duo of Lambkin and wife Adris Hoyos (Harry Pussy) have created something that hasn't gotten any less confounding in its 13 years of existence. The source of practically all sounds on the record is the human voice but, it's most likely not what you imagine it is after a description like that. This is a record for someone who loves tactile sounds, minute sounds magnified and all textures that can be derived from physically manipulating something i.e. me.
Blanche Blanche Blanche, the metamorphosis of a Zach Phillips project I loved to pieces, GDC, delivers lots of good homemade minimal pop pieces ("Heroes of the Microphone" probably being the definitive statement thus far for a few reasons) on their debut tape (pictured) for Night People. The duo seem on the verge of blowing up, Night People are dropping an LP later this year and Pitchfork and Vogue are already drinking the kool-aid. Looking forward to more.
Avant Archive has been all over the map of good shit this year. Take a gander for yourself. Recently Mr. Michael Jantz dropped tapes by Talk West, Bret Schneider and HMS. They're all so different it is hard to rank them. Talk West was initially my favorite with its patient pedal steel meditations but now, I don't know, Schneider's balls-to-wall loopy computerisms are really sticking in my mind and that doesn't even take into account the staggering showmanship of HMS' guitar/synth/drums improvisations. How about you take a listen and tell me for a change?
Seattle-area crew Extraordinary Pigeons and Regosphere (who is PDX-based if I'm not mistaken) just dropped a split cassette via Pigeon Coup International. The last I heard from the X-Pigeons was a Zine/Flexi-lathe which was a short track of harsh, grainy noise derived from an "audio-ization" of the images in the zine. Their side here is a spooky acoustic-drone piece reminding me of the days of 2008 when everyone was high on GHQ. Needless to say it caught me a bit off-guard but I like it. Regosphere contrasts EP's acoustic activities with a nasty wall of noise. Concocted with analog synthesizer and shortwave radio, the two pieces have guts to back up all the noise and sometimes even lock into strange hypnotic places. Nice work.
Also got a weird tape by Chica X on HeWhoCorrupts Inc. who is an eight year-old girl who raps over home-made beats by her pops. That sounds like a gimmick but most of the tracks are pretty sweet such as opener "Da Bank (1, 2 Step)" Chica X is at her finest when she's droppin' lines like "on my malibu bike and I'm feelin' kinda happy" or sneers "It's not that hard to get a library card" and taunts "How's that job at micky dees treatin' you?/Guess you shoulda been hittin the books instead of skippin' school" on stand-out "To the Library..." A couple tracks aren't as strong but overall the tapes a lot of fun.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

In Rotation #7

This post got lost somewhere in the internet void cause I went to this show back in May I think or was it April?

Just caught a killer show put together by Gift Tapes/DRAFT Records main man, Jason E. Anderson, showcasing the talents of Matt Carlson (Golden Retriever) and RM Francis in his debut performance. Two cool sets by guys approaching synthesizer music from opposite ends of the spectrum; Carlson delivering a highly maximal set of analog modular patch-cordery and Francis delivering a killer trip (as in cerebral traveling rather than "trippiness") exploring the dynamics and imperfections of time-stretched digital synthesis. I'm always a little wary of computer music (I'm an analog guy, what can I say?) but I was totally sold on Francis's work. Apparently he's got a tape on the way via DRAFT.
Anyway, while I was there I picked up a ton of tapes. After being amazed by one of Anderson's sets as Harpoon Pole Vault a couple weeks ago, I nabbed the HPV tape Outside This Area on Jugular Forest. While his live set was hyperactive and wild, the tape is much more mellowed but Anderson produced equally excellent results in both. Spacey analog synth-ery with a purpose; there are a lot great melodies that drive the cassette. The Eagle Vision cassette on Aguirre by Brother Raven, Anderson's duo with Jamie Potter, is similarly excellent. Form and melody play an even greater role here. It's a hard choice between the two as I love the looseness of Outside This Area but the deeply relaxing melodic forms of Eagle Vision are hard to resist. I'll choose later. Even as impeccable as those tapes are, and I do mean impeccable, Spare Death Icon may be my favorite of Anderson's projects because it's so damn badass. The recent Gift Tape, Survival channels John Carpenter, et al. making for an inspired album of pseudo-movie synth music. The last track is even called "Credits". Anderson also dropped a side-long anti-relaxation synth piece on a Stunned split (pictured) with Brad Rose's fantastic Charlatan project, who by contrast delivers highly relaxing synth music. It's a smart pairing of two of today's top synth aficionados; one of the best in Stunned's recent split series as well.
The one non-Anderson-involved tape was by Carlson called Gecko Dream Levels. A loopy, forty minute brain-mash. It makes me think what if an early 20th c. avant-garde composer (someone with a sense of humor like Charles Ives) created soundtracks for early video games. Carlson basically just lets himself run wild all over the tape, discharging a wealth of ideas. Among the most "composed" pieces on the tape, "Infinity Canyons" is phenomenal.
What attracts me to Anderson's and his cabal's work is instead of there being a passiveness of sounds which is characteristic of a lot of this new new age of synth music, their sounds are very much active. I don't mean in a quantifiable sense, just that there are dynamics in the music that often lack in the work of others. Despite the highly (or should I say completely) synthetic nature of the recordings they feel and sound certifiably organic. Stellar stuff all around.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Interview: Michael Jantz of Avant Archive

This marks the first interview feature for Auxiliary Out Redux; there are more in the works that will hopefully be realized soon. Enjoy!

Avant Archive is in it's second year of operation and has amassed quite a diverse and interesting catalog. The label has most recently released tapes by the likes of Talk West, Bret Schneider, HMS and as well as double-cassettes by mainstays Sean McCann and Ajilvsga. The label's founder Michael Jantz (known musically as Black Eagle Child) was kind enough to answer a few questions for me.

Auxiliary Out: What is the origin story of Avant Archive?

Michael Jantz: I think it's common to fantasize about doing a label. You know, "It would be cool to do this or that". So like a lot of folks working with music, I had the fantasy and so finally I realized I could probably make it work. I have been in touch with a lot of tremendously talented and friendly folks over the last few years while doing music as Black Eagle Child, and so naturally when I wanted to launch the label, I called on a few of them to contribute. Some of the first invites have yet to be responded to in full, but a handful of them have already been realized in full and I've also come in contact with new friends since last year when I started the label and lots of exciting stuff is planned.

AO: Unlike nearly every microlabel out there, you don't do one-time limited editions, what's the inspiration behind that?

MJ: The collectibility of a lot of new and interesting music is a bit unnerving. It's not a new topic for discussion, but I think it bears reiterating. It seems that plenty of artists are publishing music that becomes physically inaccessible within a week or two of the music's official release. I understand the financial entanglements that I suppose necessitates this situation, but I also think that a little patience and good faith can help to combat it. So far I've only done reprints of two (of the, at the time of this interview, 14) catalog titles. The funds for these certainly could have been channeled into new releases, but I am not interested in creating a giant catalog of music that isn't available. I want to create a catalog of music that represents a certain array of artists that I find interesting, and I want the catalog to be accessible from now to the indefinite future. I realize that with the proliferation of music blogs and torrents, nothing is every truly out-of-reach. However, I think (and especially in the case of experimental and underground music listeners) that there are people who would like more than a potentially low-grade digital copy of a work. It's in the spirit of supporting and promoting forward-thinking music that a listener should be able to purchase a copy of an album, rather than download it due to its unnecessary physical unavailability.

AO: Visually, AA releases bear a lot of resemblance to each other. Do you feel like Avant Archive has a certain or recognizable "sound"?

MJ: No. I don't really want to let the label become pigeonholed, so to speak. I know and love plenty of labels that have done a great job with showcasing a certain sound (right now a lot of labels are doing a lot of synthesizer music), and sometimes it's nice to know what to expect with a label or a new artist that label is presenting. But with Avant Archive I want to keep the scope broad and offer music that is simply good and interesting, regardless of the style or genre category the music might be pushed into by listeners or critics. I listen to all kinds of music for pleasure, so it would be probably very difficult for me to only release music that met a set of specific, banal prerequisites. If I like a demo, then it has potential for release on Avant Archive.

AO: Where did the visual look for AA come from?

MJ: I designed it myself with some kind of amalgamated vision that's a result of seeing certain book editions and record cover editions. In 2010 I worked on a split cassette for the label Digitalis Limited (a tape shared between Mike Pouw's Knit Prism and myself, as W.A. Munson). I did the layout and design for the j-card and it really kind of thrilled me to work on it. I like the b&w look and I also like the very library-like template that allows for both uniformity or cohesion and also some unique and potentially very powerful or interesting visuals. So that's more or less how the 'look' was born. I initially wanted to keep it very rigid, but since launching the label I've become more relaxed and realized that I can stray pretty far from the original layout and still maintain a nice cohesive aesthetic across all the releases. Future editions will break drastically from the current b&w cassette layout, though I will always maintain it as a 'standard' for many of the catalog items.

AO: You offer free streaming of every Avant Archive release, what prompted the decision to do that?

MJ: Well this sort of follows on the heels of the idea of a permanently-available edition. I don't want any of the titles to ever be unavailable from the label, but I'm also financially unable to order more copies of every release as stocks are depleted. I will eventually restock physical titles, but the time frame inside which I do that will vary. So as a solution I have created the digital section, which I then realized would be a great way to just allow people to listen to the release entirely if they would like (without purchasing, or prior to). The streaming is really an added bonus or an afterthought to the download function. You can opt to download an album for a fee, or else just stream it for free. And if you like what you hear so much that you want to order a physical copy, then great! Perhaps total streaming availability will eliminate 2nd hand sales of Avant Archive tapes because nobody will ever be disappointed with a purchase ever again!

AO: What about the "Artists Page"?

MJ: This was sort of done without thought. I think one of the elements that defines a label is the group of artists it brings into the fold. And I think it's important to give potential listeners or patrons of the label a chance to read the label's description of the artists it’s working with. My description of a particular artist should be unique to my perspective, which I channel through the label. It's an opportunity for me to explain what's great about artist X and to justify the existence of that artist's album in the label's catalog.

AO: What is it about an artist or release that makes you say "I want to put this out"? Or "what qualities attract you to an artist or release?" may be a better way to phrase it.

MJ: Things so far have fallen into three categories: 1. music made by folks I've been in touch with (friends) and whose music I enjoy; 2. music made by people whose music I've admired for a long time but have not yet spoken with; 3. music submitted by strangers via demos. So in the first case, it's pretty straightforward; a friend is doing a cool music project and I want to work with the person. In a perfect world, this would be the case 90% of the time. However there are a lot of labels and folks are busy. Also, it's good to let some new voices enter the stage. In the case of putting out music by people I don't know yet (either someone whose music or project I'm already familiar with or not), I think the most important thing is that I enjoy the music and I can envision others doing the same. Like there is no formulaic approach for targeting a sound aesthetic, there can't really be a distinct method for picking what music gets put out. If I like the music and the person is interested in working with me, then we will likely be good to go.

AO: Are there any releases you're extra proud of or particularly excited you got to release?

MJ: I don't think it's fair to pick one or two above the rest, because honestly I am very proud of all of them and I think they're all excellent contributions to both the label's catalog and the global music community. BUT I will say that I was particularly excited to put out the first catalog title, which is my own "Born Underwater"/"The Arquebus". I'd been waiting for the perfect opportunity to put these out and then it came. I had only submitted the demo for this tape to a few labels back in 2007/2008 and not surprisingly, got no response from anyone! But over the following years, I spent a lot of time listening to and relistening to these tracks. I'm glad to finally have them out in a respectable edition and one I feel entirely satisfied with, since of course, I handled every aspect of the production. I'm also right now eagerly awaiting the delivery of the label's first vinyl edition, a 7" record by the band Horse Marriage. It's been a thrill to do a vinyl project and having 'broken my cherry' so to speak, I now feel pretty excited about tackling more projects like this in the future. I'll also mention that the 7" rocks hard! As much as I love working on experimental music, I am also very excited about working on a full-fledged rock'n'roll record.

AO: That makes for an easy segway into my next question. "Born Underwater"/"The Arquebus" are probably my favorite Black Eagle Child recordings. You sort of covered this, but why did they sit on the shelf so long? They seem to stand out or separate themselves from most of your catalog.

MJ: Well it was recorded at a time when I didn't have a very concrete vision of how Black Eagle Child should sound. Albeit, I didn't really form that vision until after putting out a good dozen or so cassettes of music under the name. After a certain point I felt like the stuff was too different from everything else I was doing that I couldn't see putting it out alongside the rest of my rather pastoral catalog. But then I realized I could do it on my own label because I could kind of explain it myself. And I think now that I justify it by saying that it is still largely guitar music, and Black Eagle Child is predominantly a guitar project.

AO: You mentioned you've got a 7inch by Horse Marriage coming out soon but all of your releases thus far have been on cassette tape. Are you pretty dedicated to the cassette format or do you intend to do predominantly vinyl releases down the road?

MJ: Similar to my views on playing and recording music, I am opposed to the purist approach in music publishing. I am a proponent of the Rooseveltism, "do what you can with what you have". So while I love cassettes and the possibilities they offer, I also think CD and vinyl are terrific formats. I think it's unfortunate that formats go in and out of fashion, though I suppose I owe my realization that cassettes are a viable format to the fact that cassettes are now in fashion. But trends aside, I think that all formats have their own benefits and selling points. Down the road, I would like to be able to pick a format that I think most fits the music that I'm publishing. So a couple of 40-minute pieces will obviously not fit on an LP, even if (fingers crossed) I could just decide to do an LP version of any given release. Just an example there...some stuff is great on CD, I think. The vinyl record is considered by many as the king of music media, but I think that's a little simplistic. So no, I don't think I would do vinyl predominantly, but I do want to do more projects on media other than cassette.

AO: You're last few releases (HMS, Bret Schneider, Talk West) were from artists unknown to my ears, how did you come across them?

MJ: All three of those were instances in which someone contacted the label to inquire about submitting a demo. So they were all pretty straightforward and easy; simple introduction, here are some samples or our demo, and then we would talk about what would potentially become a release in the label's catalog. I think I've been fortunate so far in that I've not got too many demo submissions that I've turned down (i.e. I have had some pretty excellent demo submissions!).

AO: They're all very different but really good.

MJ: Thanks...I would have to agree with you. I like keeping the sound varied.

AO: Do you see any of those as in line with previous releases you've put out? Do you ever choose releases with the intention to stake out new territory for the label?

MJ: I don't really think too strategically about the catalog, except for one avenue, which is simply that I don't want to put out too much of the same kind of music. I have a loathing for genres and categories as much as anyone, but in the case of operating a label I think it's important to be aware of the categories into which people will inevitably put the music that you're producing. So I try to be mindful of what I've done and what's on the slate for near-future and I try not to give any critic or listener any grounds for pigeonholing the label with some term that would serve to oversimplify my mission.

AO: What are some of your favorite labels? How much does your personal engagement with other labels influence your work with AA?

MJ: My desire to start a label was definitely born from watching some of my favorite labels grow and turn into these incredibly inspiring and impressive entities. For the last few years I've been obsessed with Stunned Records (no doubt many other folks have as well). Stunned is probably the sole underground label that has time and again wowed me. Also, Housecraft records, owing largely to the fact that Jeff has released so much of his own music on that label, as well as the many collaborations and solo efforts happening in his neck of the woods. Digitalis was the one label that actually opened my eyes to a lot of underground music. I don't think any other label is doing the same as Digitalis right now, in terms of volume and quality...they just put out a lot of great music on a frequent basis. I'm also a long-time fan of the Rephlex label, and I kind of revel in a lot of aspects of that label, including the minimal production specs and a lot of the 'mysterious' releases they've produced over the last 20 years. Roll Over Rover is another fave, owing to my ties with the folks running that label...they're just super-nice guys and their putting out great tunes that I've spent a lot of time with over the past couple of years. I could probably list dozens of excellent labels, but those are some that have been consistently excellent.

AO: Do you feel like AA is line with other labels, for instance a number of the artists on AA have released music on Stunned and/or Digitalis. Is there any sort of comraderie or, perhaps on the other hand, competition that develops when you share a "stable" of artists?

MJ: I think the overlap is pretty evident among many labels working in this realm, and I definitely want to let Avant Archive be something more than "just another tape label" or whatever it might appear to be to the untrained eye. I do enjoy a lot of what's happening on these other labels, but I also think there are artists who, for whatever reason, are not getting any voice, but whose music is every bit as incredible. So while I like to work with artists who are already established in the music community, I also think that working with new artists is probably more important. I think, "If I don't put this out, who will?", and it is something that really deserves listeners' attention. And I suppose my hope is that some of these new voices will be then welcomed into this mystical stable of artists!

I also think that it shouldn't matter what an artist's back-catalog looks like...listeners should listen to a sample (or the whole album, if you want) and decide from that basis whether or not you want to buy a tape or record. I'm sort of unnerved by the circumstances we sometimes create in which we foster wild proliferation of a certain handful of artists' discographies, which then 'dominate the scene' so to speak, while new voices are unheard because they aren't 'abuzz' right now. I don't claim to 'solve' this, but I do want to do my best to make the music the most important part of why I operate the label.

AO: Any music been wowing you recently?

MJ: Well the last two Super Minerals tapes (both on Stunned) have been on frequent rotation, as has another couple recent Stunned tapes. One is a split between Nite Lite & Waterfinder. Really I've been digging hard on the Nite Lite side, but the whole tape is pretty grand. Then also the summerTales/Knit Prism split, equally great. Then also the newer 2xCD by Lionel Marchetti called Une Saison, issued on Monotype (literally wowed me...just floored me on first listen!). Not on the WOW scale, really, but I've also been listening to the Art Museums LP a lot, and plenty of Chris Weisman, Kurt Weisman, Happy Birthday, and Ruth Garbus.

AO: What's next for Avant Archive?

MJ: Definitely more cassettes. Cassettes from Hakobune, Olli Aarni, Jeremy Bible & Jason Henry, Keith Fullerton Whitman, Bjerga/Iverson, Travis Johnson & Jeph Jerman and a few other less-certain but equally awesome artists. I've invited a guest photographer/designer to contribute to some of the future editions also, which I'm very excited about. Upcoming 7" lathe-cut acetates from Will Long and Fabio Orsi. Then there will be a CD edition of a live performance from He Can Jog, including a remix by another existing Avant Archive alumnus. Finally of course there are some very exciting things I'm not quite ready to share...but hopefully 2012 will be excellent.

Friday, June 3, 2011

In Rotation #6

Has it ever happened to you where you buy some records or tapes that you're excited about and then grab another out of sheer curiosity and the curio ends up being the one you listen to all the time?? I feel that happens to me pretty often.
Last time I was in Exiled Records (best record store on the West Coast, at least!) I grabbed new tapes from Golden Retriever and Indignant Senility and then for the hell of it I grabbed the new Terror Bird Human Culture LP on Night People because I liked a song I heard on Free Form Freakout. [...time lapse...] Hot damn! I've been playing the shit out of this Terror Bird LP. Gothwave piano pop from Vancouver, B.C. and this shit is tops. At first, even though I liked the record from the get-go, I was worried the gothy piano-pop sound might wear thin at some point, after repeated listens; I mean, Zola Jesus didn't go wrong until she started putting out records that lasted more than 7 minutes (Terror Bird doesn't really sound like Zola Jesus but they have similar influences.) Well anyway, that worry was stupid. This thing just gets better and better; I've owned it for 5 days now and already lost count of how many times I've listened to it. It really is a case where if you put on any one of the 13 songs I will be equally happy. Some might stick in my head a little more but then others offer a modestly symphonic quality to them that I love. The songs don't all hit you in the same way but they each hit you hard; they all sound good and they all sound good together. The record sounds lo-fi (I'm guessing it was made on a 4-track with a couple keyboards, drum machine and microphone) but it doesn't sound scuzzy. It sounds clean but thin which sustains an atmosphere over the course of the record.
When it really comes down to it though, the sound is not why the record is so addictive. It's because every fucking song is fucking great! High fucking art when it comes to pop craftsmanship. Fuck.
The other tapes I got are cool but have been a little neglected in light of all of the brainwashing the Terror Bird has been doing to me. The analog synth/clarinet duo of Golden Retriever dropped a nice tape for NNA Tapes called Emergent Layer. I can't compare this to other releases since I've only heard a comp track but Matt Carlson, the synth, works some heavy disorientation via hyperactivity in the stereo spectrum. Jonathan Sielaff, the bass clarinet, humanizes the whole ordeal with his organic though copiously effected reeds, providing thoughtful melodic counterpoints to Carlson's wild-man-on-campus vibe. Synth/clarinet is definitely an odd combo (can you name others?) but these guys manage to not only subvert expectations but also effortlessly create a natural chemistry between their instruments. Very cool band.
Indignant Senility is one of many projects by Glamorous Pat Yo-Yo Dieting and considering how much I've been loving his work on Bubblethug and a DJ Yo-Yo Dieting c-90 I picked up, I wanted to see what his classical music plunderphonic project was like. Apparently he did a record of all Wagner which I haven't heard and this j-card offers no guess as to what source material is used. No matter, Blemished Breasts (pictured) on Cherried-Out Merch is definitely dense and at 100 minutes, it's a certified behemoth. I really haven't spent enough time with it to give any insight, but the source material here is much more obscured than with Yo-Yo Dieting. There's the occasional, fleeting instant where a lovely melody materializes and evaporates just as quickly, but mostly Pat just produces this stoic, oppressive force that keeps you under its thumb. I'll keep listening to this one.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

In Rotation #5 (Seattle edition)

It's never a bad idea to shine a light on cool things going down in your community considering I just a nabbed a couple releases the other weekend that fit very snugly into that category.
My pal Adam Svenson (Dull Knife, Du Hexen Hase, Little Claw) has finally realized his life-long dream to put out vinyl records with the release (A) Story of Rats's debut LP Thought Forms on the newly christened Eiderdown Records. Svenson is no stranger to the weirdo label biz (he ran a label in the 90s called Squirrel Energy Now! putting out tapes by Charlie McAllister among others) and you can tell. This record looks awesome! Killer gold and black screenprinting of artwork by Mr. of Rats himself, Garek Druss, and beautiful blue-grey marbled vinyl. Real classy, grade A. The sounds themselves are signature Rats--the first side drops you into heavy, heavy atmosphere. It's the flip side though that really takes the cake. Druss brings in the forms; trippy organ calls along with mists of vocals and guitar and subtle creeping electronics. The record drops officially on May 11th, Story of Rats is playing a record release show on that date, weirdly its at El Corazon.
I also heard an upcoming CD-r of Svenson's solo project Karnak Temples to be released by Seattle-based Debacle Records. It's 40 minutes of minimal, classically psych'd guitar drones where each track is better than the last. Very nice. I will be happy to see some of Svenson's solo work (which rarely makes live appearances unfortunately) finally see the light of day.
I also did my good deed and nabbed a copy of Seattle's DRAFT Records compilation Pacific Support (pictured,) a benefit for post-Tsunami Japan, curated by Jason E. Anderson of the Gift Tapes/DRAFT labels and known musically as Harpoon Pole Vault, Spare Death Icon and half of Brother Raven. You get the full story here but the skinny of it is all labor and product was donated to the effort so whatever you pay goes straight to the Red Cross. The artists involved had a week to submit their material, National Audio Company not only fast-tracked the process but generously donated the 300 cassette run as well, Anderson organized the whole shebang and then the various distros stocking it paid face value for the cassettes so it's a pretty awesome collaborative effort. And you don't have to be an altruist to get behind this; the tape rules. Everyone knows comps can be hit or miss but this thing is solid as a rock. Some standouts are Rene Hell's fantastic opener, tracks by Seattle synth-heads Brother Raven and Panabrite and tracks by Portland-based Matt Carlson and his synth/clarinet duo Golden Retriever with Jonathan Sielaff but really it's a totally cohesive effort despite all the minds contributing. I'd never heard GR or Carlson's solo work previously but each delivers on this tape. The c75 is rounded out by Flower Man and Carl Calm (of Caboladies) who each contribute tracks, The North Sea, Keith Fullerton Whitman,Temporal Marauder, Pulse Emitter, Make a New Memory (new duo of Geoff Mullen and Sakiko Mori) and Greg Davis. Can I expect a Southern Support comp looming in the future to help out the tornado and flood-ravaged parts of the US? Hope so. So many reasons to pick this up.
I've also been jamming Paintings for Animals's 3" CD-r on Kimberly Dawn recently. It's a great long form piece, really beautiful, recorded somewhere in Seattle called Minor Tower. Through some google-mapping I found a spot across the water from Gasworks park which I am guessing is the "Minor Tower" in question. Considering the release is called Whale Hunter, being in close vicinity to water makes a hell of a lot of sense. Frank Baugh's term of "deep environment" in his label description totally applies to this sucker. Why have I not heard of this project before?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

In Rotation #4

Got the first six tapes from Cory Card's new Cae-sur-a label. It's a varied bunch and there sure are some winners. Definitely the MPC (most played cassette) of the package is Tone Arm by Steve Baczkowski, saxophonist and motherfuckin' musical MacGyver. Baczkowski did a record with Bill Nace which I sadly haven't heard, and now that I've heard Baczkowski's work here I really bet that record was stellar. The tape is a year-old live recording in which Mr. Baczkowski takes on turntables, prepared records, tone arm, bells, implements, flutes, vibratube and baritone sax and improvises the shit out of them. Seriously though, the work here is remarkable, particularly on the second side where Baczkowski has a built a legitimately melodic composition out of his ragtag troupe. There is a killer video of Baczkowski demonstrating his DJ skills embedded below.
Cae-sur-a also dropped a tape recently by Velvet Elvis who draws heavily on 70s Hard Rock via late 80s grunginess. It's a swingin' little EP with a nearly a capella cover of "Nobody's Fool" at the end. York Factory Complaint wasted no time jumping down my throat again after the wreckage left in the wake of their House of Alchemy tape. Their cassette We Call it Prayer is another prickly envelope containing the nastiest poison pen letter seen round these parts in some time. They throw a curve though, at one point they approach melody. Though their "approach" is more akin to the way a stalker is tempted to break his restraining order and approach his victim. As if that isn't enough, later on they actually go all the way! There's a melody amidst all the rage! And that's just the first side. Sweet tape. Will hit up the other Cae-sur-a tapes at a future rotation.
Speaking of York Factory Complaint, Robert & Leopold sent over a couple tapes. Demons and Dances by Pipeline Alpha is thoroughly slammin'. I have a PA tape on DNT from a few years ago, and while I haven't listened to it in a while, I do not remember this guy covering this much territory. It is well known to some that I can be finicky when a release runs longer than 45 minutes but Mr. Alpha kept me engaged for a full 60 without breaking a sweat. The tape runs the gamut of psychedelic and experimental styles along with perfectly placed plunderphonic gems. Love it! Adam Richards's (House of Alchemy) Chapels project also delivers a great cassette with That Incorrigible Death's-Head (pictured). It seems like there's slightly more clarity here than is usual for a Chapels release, so my confusion stems from the bizarre display and not just general unintelligibility. There's still plenty o' murk but less fuzz. I'm all for it as I can hear all the strange intricacies of Richards's work much better now. I think this is probably the best Chapels tape I've heard since the one he dropped on Stunned a few years back.

Check out DJ Baczkowski:

Sunday, May 1, 2011

In Rotation #3

Tired Trails sent over a big fatty of a package containing 7 tapes, all in handmade fabric enclosures. The first tape I popped in was The Mind of Christ by Odawas because it was a soundtrack for a short film that played Cannes Independent Film Festival last year. Not sure if it's associated with the regular old Cannes Festival or not but it is actually in Cannes so that's pretty cool. My favorite track on the tape is "Mariner's Hymn" as it's full of epic spaciness, you could throw it on as an alternate soundtrack for For All Mankind if you wanted. The aforementioned film, Kill Yr TV by Neil Blakemore is embedded below. Elsewhere in the package is a noisy tape by Endometrium Cuntplow (what in the fuck is an endometrium cuntplow?) and On Growth in Form by Endless Endless Endless which delivers some really nice grooving, synth-drones. Besides, who could dislike anyone who looks as friendly as these guys do. I'm halfway through the Tired Trails stack and I gotta say the gorgeous warbles emanating from The Death of Kung Fu by The Diamond Family Archive (pictured) is absolutely top of the pile at this point. It's a lo-fi backwoods folk trip on the first side gradually morphing into some beautiful droning compositions on the second side. Wonderful stuff. I'll finish the rest of the pile in the next rotation.
The other night, I saw Davy from Weird Forest play in his killer guitar/sax/synth combo with Matt Kretzmann, eloquently christened Garrincha & the Stolen Elk, recently reviewed by yours truly. (By the way, that Stunned tape is the entirety of available recordings of the former 4-man line-up so I suggest you hop on that while you can.) Anyway, Davy, incredibly kind gent that he is bestowed upon me 3 double LPs Weird Forest dropped last year.
I'm obsessed with this incredible head scratcher, Rain in England by Berkeley-based, recently death-threatened emcee Lil B. Relentlessly serene, the the double LP features B rapping in free verse over drifting new-age synth pads. It's hip hop without beats, without hooks just set adrift. His voice sounds like a combo of Lil Wayne, Sensational and Prince; his flow is harder to pin down but it has the elasticity of Vast Aire on the The Cold Vein. This really is a record. Each track sounds more or less like the last but as a whole, it's entirely engaging, perhaps even a little addictive, over all four sides. I am gonna be doing a lot more listening to this. DJ Yo-Yo Dieting (Portlander Pat Maher a.k.a. Glamorous Pat, Sisprum Vish, Indignant Senility et al.) billed even more awesomely here as Expressway Yo-Yo Dieting also decimates hip hop convention in an entirely different way on Bubblethug. Unlike the Lil B record this one is bristling with groovin' beats. The bad ass abstraction at play here comes from the seriously complex chopping and screwing going down. The best thing about this record is it still is a hip-hop/DJ record at its core; you scrape away all the cough syrup residue and aural vomit and you have some sickass catchy beats and melodies throbbing underneath. I get up multiple times to dance over the course of the thing. It's incredible that Maher retained the essence of the source material while rendering it completely unrecognizable. Still not sure how he pulled it off, will listen more for clues. Damn fine work, damn fine.
The last of the three records is a 10th Anniversary gatefold reissue of Afternoon Tea (which I'd never heard until now) by the one-off supergroup of Oren Ambarchi and Keith Rowe on guitar, and Christian Fennesz, Peter Rehberg and Paul Gough a.k.a. Pimmon on computer. Over the course of the incredibly dynamic recording guitars clank, rumble and drone processed by digital tones, oscillations and plenty o' crackle. Perhaps the most attractive quality of the record to m is it delves masterfully into deep, deep zones but the quintet keeps everything rough; the set is fluid but most definitely not a smooth ride. So much of the time music created with heavy use of computer ends up devoid of texture--this is an instance where the absolute opposite is true. Though since this album employs software circa 2000, maybe them computers back in the day were a lot more raw and instinctual.
In addition to the original afternoon Tea recordings, there is a second LP with a fairly short remix Fennesz did and two live recordings from the What is Music? festival, performed on the evening of the Afternoon Tea sessions. The "evening tea" sessions are pretty much just as essential so it's great to have them included here. Heavy and hardy recommendations to each of these records, each one tickles a different fancy but they are equally stellar.

Kill Yr TV from Neil Blakemore on Vimeo.